Headlines – 1/23/2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Panolian: HEADLINES – January 23, 2007

  From the 01/23/07 issue of The Panolian   –   

Wanted: motivated coach to fill void of 60-0 football team
     Gentlemen of the Roundtable represented by Ronnie Darby (left), located at Dale’s Smokehouse Restaurant, presented Tiger football head coach Ricky Woods (right) with a check for almost $500 to use toward championship football rings for the 2006 5A State Champion South Panola Tigers.
     Approximately 32 full and part-time Roundtable participants contributed. The group expressed its gratitude to Woods who will be leaving after this year after winning four state championships and then wondered where they’ll meet when the restaurant closes in the next few days.
By Myra Bean

There were long faces around town last week with the announcement that South Panola High School head football coach Ricky Woods is leaving the Tiger den.

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Woods confirmed to The Panolian Friday that he has accepted the athletic director/head football coaching position at Bainbridge High School in Bainbridge, Ga.
The school is located in the southwest corner of the state about 40 miles from Tallahassee, Fla., home of Florida State.

Rumor of Woods’ impending departure started making the rounds early last week, Woods confirmed in an interview Friday morning.

The Post Searchlight in Bainbridge posted the notice on its Web site Friday morning. When that happened, Woods broke the news to the football team.

"I thank the players most of all," Woods said. "They are the reason I came here." (For more of Woods’ story, see sports, page B1).

According to senior defensive end Marlon Wilks, the outgoing seniors took the news better than other players.

"Some cried and some were mad," Wilks said.

Woods is leaving the program in much better shape than when he inherited it in 2002, when community and team morale were low after a 5-6 record in 2001.

Woods, 47, and his wife, Susan, came to town in the spring of 2002 and immediately became an integral part of the community. Even though the Woods’ hail from Ackerman, Woods said they consider Batesville home.

"This is the hardest decision Sue and I have ever made," Woods said Friday morning.

"We feel like Batesville is our home. If the good Lord lets us live long enough, we may want to move back here and retire."

Though it was a hard decision for Woods to make, he is excited about his future.

He and Susan will both retire from the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System following the conclusion of their current school year contracts and move to Bainbridge in Decatur County.

Woods will become athletic director and head football coach following the resignation of former coach and athletic director Greg Guy.

Citing the migration of their two sons, Woods said that was a strong reason why he decided to make the move now.

His oldest son Stan is considering moving to Wilmington, N.C. for a job and youngest son Thomas expects to attend medical school in Jackson. Bainbridge is located about an equal distance between the two cities.

Woods led South Panola to its fourth consecutive state football championship and a 60-game win streak. He amassed a 74-1 record while at South Panola.

Woods has been coaching 18 years and holds a 204-40 record from Eupora, Ackerman and South Panola high schools.

Throughout the spring Woods will be traveling back and forth to Georgia to get settled and go through spring practice with the Bearcats.

Gov sets date for election
By Billy Davis

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has set the date of February 13 for a special election to fill the empty District 11 seat that includes much of Panola County.
The District 11 seat has been empty since the death on January 12 of state Rep. Leonard Morris of Batesville.

In a press release sent late Monday afternoon, Barbour announced the Tuesday, February 13 date and February 27 as the date for a run-off election if one is necessary.

Per state law, the governor of Mississippi sets the dates of special elections, a spokesman for the state Secretary of State’s office said last week.

District 11 represents large portions of southwestern, central and northeastern Panola County, connecting communities such as Curtis and Tocowa to Como and communities north of Sardis Lake via most of west Batesville. The district also includes Tate County.

Panola County Circuit Clerk Joe Reid said he intended to research the procedure for candidates to qualify for a special election.

"I know our representatives and state senator have to qualify in Jackson, but I don’t know about a special election," Reid said.

In the press release, Barbour states that Morris’ death meant Mississippi lost "one of the true gentlemen of this legislature."

TVEPA crew aids Missouri
By John Howell Sr.

Ten Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association workers left Friday for southwest Missouri to help restore electric service in an area devastated by recent ice storms, TVEPA General Manager Brad Robison said.

Jamie Barnett, Whit Lawrence, Royce Williams, Anthony Atkinson, Jeremy Cosby, Jeff Hall, Undra Draper, Hoby McCullar, Michael Johnson, Braden Crigler, Dale Kyle, Ronnie Williams and Jeremy Ware left Batesville Jan. 19 to join a group of electric power association employees from across the State of Mississippi who will be assisting in recovery efforts.

"As part of our nationwide mutual aid assistance program, we are always prepared to send emergency crews when needed,"Robison said. "These employees are well trained for emergency work and most important, are a very dedicated group who will help restore electric service to the thousands who remain without power."

Robison noted that Missouri emergency crews were one of the first groups to respond to Mississippi’s electric power associations’ request for assistance following Hurricane Katrina.

"Within days following the storm, Missouri had sent a large team of emergency workers and were instrumental in our short recovery time," he said.

For some TVEPA workers, memory of mutual assistance long predates Katrina.

"Most of them were here in ’94," said TVEPA administrative assistant Margaret Russell, recalling the 1994 ice storm which destroyed the TVEPA power distribution system. "They remember how grateful they were for workers from across the country who helped us in ’94."

Michael Callahan, executive vice president/CEP of the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi, stated that there are 76 workers from 10 electric power associations across the state who plan to stay two weeks if necessary. The TVEPA workers were deployed to Mount Vernon, Mo.

’06 shooting nets guilty verdict
By Billy Davis

A Panola County jury has convicted a drug dealer of aggravated assault for his role in a 2006 dispute that Batesville police described afterward as a "drug deal gone bad."

The jury, which convened this week in Batesville for a two-day trial, found Marco Terrell Lamar guilty of shooting Eramus "Rod" Spears in the right wrist and left leg in the parking lot at Wal-Mart in Batesville. The shooting occurred June 30.

Jurors also found Spears guilty of possession of more than one ounce of marijuana after police found seven bricks of marijuana in a duffel bag at the scene of the shooting.

Circuit Judge Andrew C. Baker presided over the trial.

According to court records, the police investigation of the shooting concluded that Spears and a friend, Damarquese Bledsoe, likely attempted to rob Lamar of his drugs, a cell phone and a handgun. But Lamar had a second weapon inside his vehicle and fired at Spears and Bledsoe after they had walked away from his Dodge Magnum.

"They basically tried to steal his dope after smoking marijuana with him," said BPD Detective Paul Shivers.

Shivers said parking lot cameras filmed Bledsoe holding the bag of marijuana when he and Spears stepped out of Lamar’s vehicle. The cameras did not show the actual shooting, he said.

Batesville police located a .38 revolver at the scene, which Shivers said was likely the weapon that was stolen from Lamar.

The wounded Spears apparently ran into the store, leaving behind a trail of blood. A third friend, Alton Kee, who was waiting in a car, picked up Spears and Bledsoe behind the store and drove the wounded man to the nearby Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

After the shooting, Batesville police heard varying stories from witnesses on the scene. The son of a Wal-Mart employee was mistakenly arrested inside the store, then later released, after he fit the description of a suspect.

Lamar was indicted by a grand jury in September for one count of aggravated assault and one count of felony drug possession.

Following the indictment, Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly informed the court that he wanted to charge Lamar as a habitual offender after overlooked crime records showed the defendant had been convicted in the past in U.S. District Court and Panola Circuit Court on drug-related charges.

Lamar had been sentenced in 1995 in circuit court to 10 years in prison for sale of cocaine, court records show.

Shivers said the police department sought felony charges against Spears and Bledsoe relating to the shooting, but grand jurors apparently indicted only Lamar.

The detective said Lamar eventually turned himself in after hiring an attorney, who advised him not to talk.

"He never said where the car was or where he got the drugs," Shivers said. "He was uncooperative."

The marijuana in the bag weighed "a little over three kilograms," which is a rather large amount, Shivers said.

"If you broke up the bricks you could fill up three large garbage bags," the detective said.

County agrees to guidelines for appeals
By Billy Davis

An appeals process for decisions made by the county land commission was approved by supervisors last week, creating some parameters by setting a deadline for filing an appeal and mandating a date for the appeal to be heard.

The Panola County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to set a 10-day filing deadline and hear all appeals at the supervisors’ "second Monday" meetings. Both suggestions came from the county’s land development commission.

The need for an appeals process became apparent in November when residents of the Chapeltown community maintained a vigil at supervisors meetings as they awaited an appeal from a pair of business owners.

The idea of a basic procedure got an initial nudge from board of supervisors attorney Bill McKenzie at the supervisors November 14 meeting. At that meeting, the residents were told by board president Robert Avant that their presence was unnecessary even though the business owners were waiting outside the board room for a planned appearance before the board.

While avoiding any politics involving the situation, the board attorney stressed the need for a procedure and got approval to collaborate with Bob Barber, a city planner who works as a consultant for the land commission.

"It’s pitiful that these people have to run up here every time we have a meeting," McKenzie told supervisors.

District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup seconded McKenzie’s suggestion for an improved procedure.

Following the supervisors’ November 14 meeting, Barber and the land commission discussed an appeal procedure and made recommendations at the land commission’s December 11 meeting.

At the supervisors meeting last Friday, McKenzie suggested that the 10-day deadline operate via calendar days and begin the day after the applicant’s appearance before the land commission.

"So it’s not 10 work days?" asked Avant.

"I think 10 calendar days would work better," McKenzie replied.

Discussion on the matter was short, with Supervisors Waldrup and Jerry Perkins suggesting that a 10-day deadline was "plenty" of time.

To ease the appeal process, a party that wants to appeal a land commission vote will be handed the proper paperwork after the vote is taken, said Field Dew, a state Department of Health employee who is working as a liaison between the land commission and the board of supervisors.

Developer seeks lot variance
By Billy Davis

The Panola County Board of Supervisors voted Friday to table a decision until today on whether to overrule a vote by the county land development commission.

Subdivision developer Ted Stewart appeared at the supervisors’ January 19 recess meeting to announce he was appealing the land commission’s January 8 decision that denied him a variance for smaller lots.

Stewart wants to build homes on 8,000-square-foot lots in the county and possibly smaller lots inside the city.

"The city allows a minimum of 7,200 square feet," Stewart told supervisors.

Supervisors said they will vote on the matter when they return today at 9 a.m. for a recess meeting.

Stewart is working with a federal housing program to build homes for low-income homeowners on acreage located both inside and outside the city limits of west Batesville.

Stewart told the land commission the entire development will be "at most" 90 homes located on both sides of the city limits. Phase one of the multi-phase development is 20 homes located in the county’s District 5.

The current county ordinance requires 12,000 square foot as the minimum square footage allowed, a size envisioned for more spacious, country-friendly lots instead of the high-density development planned by Stewart.

The commission wrestled with its decision for an hour and a half at its January 8 meet, finally voting 4-2 to deny Stewart the exception for smaller lots.

After hearing from Stewart, supervisors ceded to a request by District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup to delay voting on Stewart’s appeal until he can read the minutes of the land commission’s January 8 meeting and personally talk to the commission members.

Supervisors were handed copies of the minutes by Field Dew, a state Department of Health employee who is working as a liaison between the land commission and the board of supervisors.

Dew handed out the copies to the five supervisors, and the room grew quiet as supervisors flipped through the documents. After several minutes, Waldrup asked for more time.

"I’d like to look at this a little closer," Waldrup told his colleagues.

In the past, supervisors have heard only from the appealing applicant without reviewing the minutes or getting input from a representative of the commission. Dew filled that role Friday, however, when supervisors peppered him with questions about the land commission’s decision.

Being careful not to wade too deeply into the discussion, Dew deferred to the copies of the minutes already in the supervisors’ hands when questioned.


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